Thursday, September 29, 2016

Are There Any Questions? My First Month as a Full-Time Librarian, by Lauren Connolly

Hello! I’m new. New to this library, new to this state, and new to the world of full-time employment. I moved away from my native state of Delaware to the wilds of Northwest Ohio, the farthest I’ve ever lived from my family, to begin my new librarian life. I had a weekend to adjust to my temporary housing, and then my career began. That was a lot of change in a short amount of time, but surprisingly I only cried once, and luckily I was not at work during that temporary emotional overload. I count that as a major success.

I believe part of what has helped me keep it together is the fact that everyone here is kind to me. So simple, but so important. Even a job you don’t like can be made better by the people you work with; fortunately, I have a good job, and I am surrounded by great people. This is something I didn’t think about too much when I was job hunting. I’m an agreeable, non-confrontational person, and I thought I would be fine with whoever I ended up working alongside. When I received this offer, it came more than a year out from earning my MLIS, so I know the desperation that comes with a long job search: the little voice in the back of your head that convinces you any job offer is a good one, because at least you’ll be working.

Oh, just get a job?

But seriously, who you work with is important. People here smile, and say hello to me throughout the day. They asked me about my apartment search, and gave me recommendations on where to find cheap furniture. When I have a question, they don’t roll their eyes, they answer it, and then offer guidance. My office is right next to the library director’s, and it is not uncommon for me sidle over with one of my many questions. So far he hasn’t shut the door in my face, so I don’t think I’ve become too annoying… yet.

That was something I had to push myself to do in the beginning: ask questions. There have already been plenty of times when I’ve felt like I was missing something, like everyone else understood what was going on, and I was nodding and smiling and trying to keep up. I doubted my abilities as a librarian, feeling like I was simply mimicking people who actually knew what the hell was going on. 

This blog actually taught me what that feeling is: imposter syndrome. Honestly, is there any way to avoid that when you start a new job? You have this fancy title, but everything is unfamiliar. What do they expect you to know, and how soon? Whenever I feel the onslaught of self-doubt, I try to take a moment to myself and have an inner conversation that goes a little something like this:

Me: “What the hell is a widget? And a proxy server? What class did I skip where those were explained?!”
Me: “Lauren, calm down. We can figure this out.”
Me: “How?! I bet every other librarian knows what those things are, and has been working with them for years! How did I even get this job?!”
Me: “It’s going to be okay Lauren. Remember when you didn’t know what a LibGuide was? You were freaking out then too, but now not only do you know what they are, you’ve made them.”
Me: “Yeah, I guess…”
Me: “You know what you’re really good at? Learning. Anything they want you to do here, you can learn it. When they ask you about widgets that’s what you say. You’re not sure yet, but you’ll learn. We’ve been doing it for years. So calm down, and start researching.”
Me: “You’re right. I can do this.”

So that’s a glimpse inside my brain, and pretty much my thought process throughout my first month. I go through waves of stress, but recovery time is quick because of my co-workers. Plenty of people will tell you that when you start a new job it’s okay to ask questions. I’ve found it’s equally as important to find a place full of people who will answer those questions, and sometimes even thank you for asking them.

Lauren Connolly is the Online Services Librarian at the University ofFindlay. She tweets at @laurenaliciaCon, and also runs the Shafer Library social media pages (@ShaferLibrary).  [Editor’s note: And in the interest of full disclosure, Lauren used to work for me at Wesley College. I’m happy for her success, but I miss having her around my library.]


  1. Thank you for this! I will be starting my first position in library leadership (director of a rural library), and also my first full-time position in several years, next week. This is the pep talk I needed!

  2. I found a great mantra just before I fearfully started my first full-time career at the age of 55. Be feisty, be focused, and have fun. I thought: I can do that. I've done all that before. It helped me get through the first few weeks. I've been on the job two months now and I'm having a great time. I still run into new things all the time, but like you, I can (and do) learn.

  3. Lauren, would you be up for writing a follow-up post sometime? I stared my first professional job nearly a year ago after many years of parapro work, and your post really struck a chord with me. I'd love to know how things are going now and what worked or didn't work to for you to build up some confidence.